Plays about the movie picture biz have a tendency to center on Hollywood or, to be more precise, the corrupting influence that Hollywood has on the artiste. From Kaufman and Hart's Once in a Lifetime to David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow along with his film, State and Main the ground is covered pretty well, unless you want to also add in the late Robert Altman's film The Player. All of the above satirize a place that would almost seem to be beyond satirizing.
So what is left for Jim Millan to say in his own placid satire about filmmaking in Canada? Well, the joke here is how sad it is that Canadians want to make Canadian films that will make it in Hollywood! In Millan's play, Director's Cut, he presents us with a young director named Jeff MacBride (Gord Rand) who is hell bent on making a gangster picture with Canadian stars (Kiefer Sutherland, Sarah Polley and Paul Gross still count as Canadian don't they?) but with people like Forrest Whittaker too, so the film will get noticed at the Toronto International Film Festival. As the project begins to morph into something else entirely (an international intrigue plot-line that has a wicked virus being released that could destroy the Internet) - so does the young director's scruples and artistic principles.
The play doesn't quite make the grade mainly because - dare I say it? - the stakes are so low. Note that even back in 1929, Kaufman and Hart had latched their satire on to something momentous in the Hollywood film industry - the introduction of "talking" moving pictures. Al Jolson's success with The Jazz Singer had changed the industry forever and a couple of washed up vaudevillians were going to head West and cash in on the action.
Similarly, in David Mamet's modest three hander, a middle aged hack has just received a promotion to become head of production for a major studio. This means he can "green light", on his own authority, a project that doesn't exceed a budget of 10 million. His old friend brings him a project with a major star attached to it. The two contemplate wealth and fame. The beautiful receptionist who works in the office also has an idea for the head of production. Soon sparks fly and this update on Sammy Glick's moral dilemma has the production head trying to decide on which is better, getting laid or getting paid?
The sexual element is also present in Director's Cut and Amy Rutherford as the Hollywood sex goddess, ditzy blonde type, Miranda Baker, is perfect in the role. She pours her heartfelt emotion into a prosaic film script and when she encounters resistance from the director on some of her good ideas, she simply signals the possibility of sexual gratification and all is well. Michelle Latimer in the somewhat thankless role of her supporting actor, Sarah Jane Spillman, is written as second banana and has little character arch. So, too, is the case for Chris Earle as Derek Krantz, the film editor. He acts mainly as director MacBride's moral compass but with no real gravitas to offer guidance backed by substance. This is too bad, because as Earle proved so well in his big hit Fringe Theatre piece two years ago, Democrats Abroad - giving advice on resolving moral quandaries is something he does very well.
Rand clearly carries the show in his efforts to contain all of the pressures and egomania of the movie business. His overbearing producer (Ron White) and the junkie villain of the movie (played by Ryan McVittie) are the double crosses that he bears. Rand's sincerity at the beginning of the play and his deeply depressed resignation at the end speak poignantly to a young artist who checked his integrity at the door before he signed the contract. Perhaps this is all to say that director/writer, Jim Millan has had similar reservations and found it necessary to strike back. The director, who has been around the lot a few times himself, began his career with edgy scripts like Brad Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love but has become most widely identified with the touring kids show, Scooby Doo in Stage Fright.